Miles Starforth’s match analysis: Preston North End 1 Newcastle United 2

Newcastle Uniteds Aleksander Mitrovic (third right) celebrates with his team-mates after he scores his sides first goal during the Sky Bet Championship match at Deepdale.
Newcastle Uniteds Aleksander Mitrovic (third right) celebrates with his team-mates after he scores his sides first goal during the Sky Bet Championship match at Deepdale.

Add Deepdale to the lengthening list.

Add it to the list of stadiums where Newcastle United have won this season.

Ashton Gate, The iPro Stadium, Loftus Road, The New York Stadium, Oakwell and now the home of Preston North End.

Those grounds may lack of the glamour and glitz of the Premier League.

Gone, for the moment, are trips to Old Trafford, The Emirates Stadium and Stamford Bridge.

You need grit to win on the road in the Championship.

And Rafa Benitez’s side have put in some gritty performance on their travels so far this season.

Add the guile of Matt Ritchie, Jonjo Shelvey and others, and you have a winning combination.

Newcastle are winning. So too are the club’s fans, who again turned up in numbers.

There were more than 5,600 United supporters at Deepdale on Saturday.

The numerous coaches that ferried them across the Pennines had brought Kirkby Stephen to a standstill that morning.

Those same fans saw just two away wins last season as the club fought to stay in the Premier League.

Newcastle were painful to watch. They lacked style AND substance.

But there have already been many joyful scenes away from home this season, including that of Aleksandar Mitrovic bouncing in front of a packed Bill Shankly Stand as the club’s travelling fans chanted “Mitro’s on fire”.

Mitrovic is on fire. So too are his team.

United, under Benitez, have both style and substance. There’s also a stubbornness about them, especially when the team is defending a team.

Preston, beaten 6-0 by Newcastle at St James’s Park in the EFL Cup four days earlier, gave them a game.

And had it not been for a poor late decision from referee Chris Kavanagh, they would have taken a point from the Championship leaders.

The thing is, you make your own luck in this division.

United have ridden their luck at times away from home this season, and Preston had the better of the first 45 minutes.

They worked the ball well inside Newcastle’s half and probed and pressed their visitors, who had Karl Darlow to thank for a save which denied Paul Gallagher.

Mitrovic was a peripheral figure before the break.

But he knew chances would come eventually. He just had to be ready to take them. And so it proved.

Darlow, faultless since replacing Matz Sels in goal late last month, again stopped Gallagher after the break.

The game was starting to open up when Matt Ritchie took the ball on the halfway line in the 59th minute. The winger took just one touch before angling a ball to Mitrovic, who was breaking down the right.

Ritchie’s ball was inadvertantly helped on by a Preston defender.

Mitrovic chested it down and shot across Chris Maxwell and into the far corner of the net.

Mitrovic slid on his knees in front of the away end and made a gun-toting gesture.

Around the stadium, other United fans broke cover and celebrated among the home support.

It was hard on Preston, who had been the better team.

Newcastle responded to the breakthrough by working even harder. They ran, tackled and blocked as if their lives depended on it in the minutes after the goal.

It was 2-0 in the 71st minute. DeAndre Yedlin – who was struck by a coin late in the game as he received treatment in front of the Invincibles Stand – swung a ball in and Mitrovic beat Maxwell at the second attempt.

But Preston weren’t done.

Simon Grayson’s side – who had won their last four home games – fought back strongly and scored through substitute Jermaine Beckford in the last minute.

Benitez sent on defender Grant Hanley five minutes into stoppage time to shore up his defence.

Beckford, however, took a tumble under a challenge from Hanley in the dying seconds. It looked like a penalty, but referee Chris Kavanagh waved play on and substitute Marnick Vermijl struck the post with an overhead kick.

Lancashire official Kavanagh had, incidentally, denied Sunderland a late penalty their midweek EFL Cup defeat to Southampton.

Newcastle, somehow, survived nine minutes of added time.

And the day got better when the final scores came in from The Amex Stadium and Craven Cottage, where Norwich City and Huddersfield Town respectively had been beaten.

It was a happy journey back across the Pennines.

Maybe many of those fans will have dreaded this season.

Yet many will not have enjoyed following Newcastle this much in years.

Winning is everything. And United, once again, are a winning team.